The good thing is no one sees me up close. No one watches me shake when my skin tingles or when my mouth goes dry, or when I double check my wrists for hives while I’m eating. It’s exhausting, being this afraid. But it’s only my exhaustion, no one else’s. I go to work, come home, sweat, make lunch for the next day. When it gets dark I drink wine in the shower, shoot up my nostrils with solution and watch yellow mucus drip down the drain. Then I go back to Manhattan and stay until some body takes me home or until I can’t keep my eyes open.
Clothes don’t fit me. I’ve lost the fold in my stomach, the roundness in my upper thighs. The nighttime boys ask me, Are you shrinking? They love it. They smile and hold my waist, give me bogies and beer and cab money. It’s what I’ve always wanted. Smoke gets trapped beneath my monstrous tonsils for days—I can taste it when I yawn, throat stretching as though it might crack like an old rubber band.
But whenever I close my eyes something is waiting, an ugly sob. The face of that woman with her giant eyes. And something white. Everything that is peaceful makes me cry, everything that is sweet, that is true. And maybe what’s true is I don’t want to get better.
Like Woolf knew: There is, let us confess it—and illness is the great confessional—a childish outspokenness in illness; things are said, truths blurted out, which the cautious respectability of health conceals.
If wallowing is like sex for depressives, bad sex is something like melancholia for me—pathological grieving over a loss not so easily identified. Or at least, not so easily said. I know this much: the salve of bad intimacy, like a confession, allows for the simultaneity of both presence and isolation.
Psychologists talk about emotional valence, to gauge the intrinsic attraction or aversion one is likely to have to others or to situations. What people would or wouldn’t want to feel. And most people don’t want to feel sad. Most people don’t want to be around other people who make them feel bad. Happiness positive, sadness negative.
But you must know by now what I’m trying to say. What I mean about the overlap, the pleasure. How it becomes a part of your story, and how good it feels to have a story. Like how sometimes you might close your eyes to remember the melancholy cheer of twilight in August; copper leaves already cracking across the valley; a chill around your ankles at dusk, the endings of things. That specific kind of good and sad. Bass in your heart, smoke in your lungs, a little extra dope in your blood, someone’s eyes on your body, other women waiting in other bars, for a text message from those eyes. A blue, streetlight lit darkness, more lovable than you could ever be. Leaving in the morning because your story is about endings and desire. A privileged kind of loneliness.
Quiet, I will whisper in your ear one day, I am remembering being lonely.
Reprinted Courtesy of Black Lawrence Press.
To learn more about Nina and her book, go here.